Nearly 27 years ago, John Pettigrew started his career as an excited economics graduate heading for his first day with National Grid. Today he walks to work as Chief Executive, a role he's extremely honoured to undertake! John reflects on what he’s learned along his route to the top.
Why is your role important to the people of the UK, the UK economy and the company?
I believe it’s really important for an organisation to have a strong purpose, underpinned by a Vision, Strategy and Values. As CEO, I have overall responsibility for working with our Board to set these for National Grid, and a significant part of my role over the last two years has been communicating and implementing these across my organisation. This is important for the company because it sets a clear strategy and plan which means everyone within National Grid understands their role and responsibilities and works towards the same goals. Most importantly, however, it ensures we deliver safe and secure energy to homes, communities and businesses, which is critical to the people of the UK and underpins our economy.
On a day to day basis, I am also responsible for managing the relationship between the Board and our Group Executive Committee. Through the Group Executive Committee I make sure we focus on delivering our strategy and driving overall operational and financial performance. One of my roles on the Board is to report our progress against our strategy and to take their direction and feedback to the Group Executive Committee and wider organisation. This is a really important relationship for the company and through it we continue to improve our performance for customers, stakeholders and shareholders.
"It’s an exciting time to be in the energy industry. The scale and pace of change is unlike anything we’ve seen before."
Which parts of the job do you enjoy most/ find most rewarding?
National Grid is at the heart of the transformation of the energy sector and we are a valued thought leader. I really enjoy and am immensely proud to help lead the organisation through this period of significant change. Demand for more sustainable energy and advances in technology are accelerating that pace of change. In a market where our customers are demanding greater value and getting more choice we must work closely with them to meet their needs and find better ways to deliver greater value.
At National Grid everyone, from the leadership team to the frontline, has a vital role to play.
What path did you use to get to the position you hold today?
I studied at Cardiff University from 1988 to 1991, gaining a BSc in economics and a master's degree in international economics and banking. I joined National Grid as a graduate in 1991 and during my 27 years with the organisation, I’ve worked in pretty much every part of the business, in at least 12 different jobs. This included spending three years in the US as executive vice-president of Distribution and Generation (ED&G). With each move, my responsibility increased and my understanding of the business deepened. I’ve had many experiences and met many incredible people.
"Thanks to National Grid, I’ve reached my potential while loving what I do. For that I’m grateful. It’s simply a great place to work and I know from responses to our employee survey that many of our people feel the same way."
What attracted you to join the energy and utilities sector?
I grew up in Wales where the mining industry was a really important part of our communities and the local economy. Energy, therefore, has always been a significant part of my life and something I have always been interested in and passionate about. When the opportunity to work for National Grid came up, therefore, it was a fantastic one and a chance for me to work for a company at the heart of the industry. Today, we remain a critical partner to an industry undergoing significant transformation, which is a once in a generation opportunity and one which I’m incredibly fortunate and proud to be a part of!
What advice would you give to a new Graduate?
"You must take responsibility for your own career, reach out for the opportunities, and make a career path for yourself. There’s no limit to what you can achieve."
Getting a broad range of experience in my 20s and not being too impatient about moving up the ladder was hugely valuable. I think a career is like a pyramid: the broader the base, the higher up you can climb. And at the top you need those experiences, skills and knowledge.
One thing I learned early in my career was the value of networking. People I established links with 26 years ago remain part of my network of colleagues. Some work in National Grid, some have moved elsewhere, but I still rely on them.